Here’s the Worst Part of the Target Data Breach

 

You know what the most infuriating part of the massive data breach at Target is? This:

Over the last decade, most countries have moved toward using credit cards that carry information on embeddable microchips rather than magnetic strips. The additional encryption on so-called smart cards has made the kind of brazen data thefts suffered by Target almost impossible to pull off in most other countries.

Because the U.S. is one of the few places yet to widely deploy such technology, the nation has increasingly become the focus of hackers seeking to steal such information. The stolen data can easily be turned into phony credit cards that are sold on black markets around the world.

There’s really no excuse for this. The technology to avoid this kind of hacking is available, and it’s been in real-world use for many years. Every bank and every merchant in American knows how to implement it. But it would cost a bit of money, so they don’t. And who pays the price? Not the banks:

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Saturday told debit-card holders who shopped at Target during a 20-day data breach that the bank would be limiting cash withdrawals to $100 and putting on a $300 daily-purchasing cap, a move that shows how banks will try to limit exposure to potential fraud.

In a letter to debit card holders posted on its website, the bank said such limitations on spending would be temporary while it plans to reissue cards. The spending restrictions don’t affect credit card users, the bank said.

That’s right: it’s you who pays the price. Oh, these breaches are a pain in the ass for card-issuing banks and for Target itself, and it will end up costing them some money. But mainly it’s a pain in the ass for consumers. And if this breach causes you to be a victim of identity theft, you can be sure that neither Target nor your bank nor your credit rating agency will give you so much as the time of day. It’ll be up to you to reclaim your life even though it wasn’t your fault in any way. It’s a disgrace.

 

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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